Lawyer Richard Shapiro investigates cases involving this tragic medical condition.
During development, blood vessels grow from the central part of the
retina outwards. This process is completed a few weeks before the normal
time of delivery. However, in premature babies it is incomplete. If
blood vessels grow normally, ROP does not occur. If the vessels grow and
branch abnormally the baby develops ROP. That may lead to bleeding
inside the eye. When the blood gets resolved, it may give rise to band like membranes which may pull up the retina, causing detachment of retina and eventually blindness before 6 months.
Normally, maturation of the retina proceeds in-utero, and at term, the medial portion of the retina is fully vascularized, while the lateral portion is only incompletely vascularized. If a pre-term infant is treated with oxygen, the oxygen may cause constriction of the retinal blood vessels. This vasoconstriction can lead to a lack of oxygen (ischemia) in the retina. This leads to the production of molecules that cause the growth of new blood vessels (VEGF).
These blood vessels are abnormal, and negatively affect the normal
development of retinal vasculature. Thus, retinopathy of prematurity
occurs when the normal development of retinal blood vessels is
The key disease element in ROP is fibrovascular proliferation. This
is growth of abnormal new vessels that may regress, but frequently
progress. Associated with the growth of these new vessels is fibrous
tissue (scar tissue) that may contract to cause retinal detachment.
Multiple factors can determine whether the disease progresses, including
overall health, birth weight, the stage of ROP at initial diagnosis,
and the presence or absence of "plus disease". Supplemental oxygen exposure, while a risk factor, is not the main risk factor for development of this disease
Read more about this condition at http://babyblindness.com/medical-wrongdoing/